What is Atrial Fibrillation (AF)?
There are a lot of symptoms and conditions that fall into the category of ‘heart disease’ and for anyone filling out health history forms (or considering getting on a roller coaster at an amusement park) you have likely been asked if you have heart disease.
One symptom that can lead to heart disease, and frequently accompanies it, is the irregular heartbeat called AF, or Afib.
This is primarily an electrical problem in the upper part of the heart (the atria). Instead of a nice, steady beat you get quivering and irregularity, which causes a cascade of problems with the rest of the blood-pumping process.
So where does this electrical problem come from? Actually, it’s kind of like spinning the bottle on the floor where 80% of the places it can land are preventable causes:
– Stimulants like those tiny ‘energy drinks’ or questionable supplements that promise a period of a few hours of late-day energy
– High Blood Pressure- more on that below
– Alcohol use
– Illegal drug use
– Some prescription drugs
– Coronary Artery Disease
The other 20% of causes include surgery, genetic heart valve malformations, and acute heart attack.
For people who have ever wondered about AF or how to prevent it, understanding how to control blood pressure and cholesterol has never been more important.
AF doesn’t get a lot of press generally, because it’s not a symptom that people can easily turn their heads around. Understanding the peaks and valleys on an EKG readout needs a bit of advanced knowledge unless you have a physician nice enough to put the process in easy terms.
That kind of sets us up for failure, though, because sometimes we ignore risks of things we don’t always understand. And those who have developed AF as a result of heart disease or damage can tell you that there is no cure, just treatment.
Because this condition is so preventable, it is worth knowing (and sticking to) some general guidelines, which we have outlined before, but this is yet one more reason.
– Don’t smoke.
– Limit your alcohol or eliminate it completely
– Eat your colors- avoid beige or white food.
– Exercise regularly, even if it’s just light-duty walking or lifting cans of beans while watching the evening news
– Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and if it’s high, get it under control. This is one of the easiest parts of prevention because tools are everywhere to do this naturally.
– Get your Cholesterol in the right balance- minimize LDL because that is what directly contributes to Coronary Artery Disease
If you already have AF as a result of injury or disease, your options are something you can only discuss with your doctor, as some treatments inherently come with some risk of stroke and other complications.
However, getting the above rules committed to your daily life will go a long way in minimizing the damage that AF can cause.